In a shocking development just in time for Valentine's Day, a Mattel(NYSE: MAT) spokesman said today that Ken and Barbie have broken up. The news, which cynical minds might consider a marketing ploy, comes just as Cali Girl Barbie is hitting stores, complete with bikini top and a deeper tan to attract new single men. Chief among her new admirers is Blaine the Australian, a hunky dream with a boogie board.

Reached for comment this afternoon, Ken told Motley Fool staff, "She's gonna pin it on me and say I wasn't willing to make a commitment. The truth is, I could never get a handle on Barbie. One moment she's a cheerleader, the next she's a rock star, then a medic, and so on and so forth. I never really knew who she was."

Reports are that Barbie will keep the vast majority of the fortune the two dolls have amassed since they started selling together in 1961. "It's true, I'm nearly broke," Ken said. "I never planned for this eventuality. I was in love. What can I say?"

Aw, Ken, clearly the cost of love was just too high for you. But fear not, there are other fish in Toyland.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

ImClone's Mysterious Plunge

By Bill Mann (TMF Otter)

Fairly strange turn of events surrounding ImClone(Nasdaq: IMCL) today. The formerly scandal-plagued biotechnology company had a sudden spike downward in trading at about 1:45 p.m., shedding almost 20% of its market cap in a matter of minutes. The Nasdaq quickly halted trading in the stock, at a hair under $34 per share -- well below the $43.96 open.

News was imminent. Someone knew something. What was it? Did Martha Stewart sing? Is Sam Waksal coming back from prison to lead ImClone again? No, that couldn't be it. And Martha's travails at this point really only have an impact on her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia(NYSE: MSO).

ImClone has been waiting on news from the Food and Drug Administration as to whether its colorectal cancer drug, Erbitux, has been approved. It was supposed to hear by tomorrow. That must be it... the FDA must have rejected it, right? The people in the know were piling toward the exits!

Wrong. The news -- when it came out a few minutes later -- was in fact about Erbitux, but it wasn't bad. In fact, the FDA approved the drug under the its Accelerated Approval Program, which gives priority to promising drugs that address diseases for which insufficient therapies exist. Approval under this program means there have been positive efficacy results from tests conducted to date. With the approval, ImClone has its first commercial product, which will be distributed by Bristol-Myers Squibb(NYSE: BMY).

We'll see what happens to the shares when trading is reopened. I would suspect they would leap -- even though, at a $2.5 billion market capitalization, ImClone has plenty of market success already priced into its stock. People who hold biotech companies such as ImClone invest in the hope of approvals like the one today for Erbitux. With almost a million shares traded in the 15 minutes before the halt, more than a few people got to the last second before they panicked and ran. It looks like they were wrong.

If you're going to hold a lottery ticket like ImClone stock, you might as well hold it until all of the numbers have been read.

Bill Mann has no financial interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Intel Sees the Light

By Seth Jayson

This week, semiconductor powerhouse Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) announced an important breakthrough for the optical computers of the future. Let's be clear. Scientists (like esteemed Simpsons character Professor Frinks, perhaps) have been working on optical computers for a while. They promise benefits in scalability and reduced heat generation and power needs. But until now, researchers have been butting their heads against some important technical barriers.

The abstracted research from Intel, published in the scientific journal Nature, describes the issue thusly: "One of the key limitations for using silicon as a photonic material has been the relatively low speed of silicon optical modulators compared to those fabricated from III–V semiconductor compounds and/or electro-optic materials such as lithium niobate."

For those of you who need a translation from that Frinkese, the problem has been that the components that relay the Morse-code-like light pulses carrying the "digitized" optical information have not been fast enough to measure up to current microchip standards. And some of them have relied on more exotic semiconductor materials than the ubiquitous silicon.

The speeds of the silicon optical modulator created by Intel's research group exceed the fastest previous device by a factor of 50. Further speed increases are sure to follow. That could open up a whole new world of possibilities for the computer industry someday.

But what will it mean for the bottom line in the near future? That's a lot harder to say. The press coverage of the advance is buzzing about some nifty applications, like the ability to watch live TV from a Matrix-like roving aerial viewpoint.

That strangely frivolous example belies one of the key challenges of the current computer scene. Today's superfast CPUs, like the new 64-bit offerings from Intel, rival AMD(NYSE: AMD), and those tucked inside Apple's(Nasdaq: AAPL) G5s already offer more computing muscle than all but the nerdiest gamers and video editors can use. The chips are ahead of the software industry and even the operating systems -- Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) 64-bit Windows XP is still in trial release. As always, it's not the technology, but the implementation, that will drive future commercial success.

Seth Jayson is a Motley Fool contributor, and is hard at work on a smaller, faster debigulator. He owns no shares of the companies mentioned above.

Discussion Board of the Day: Organic Living

Are you a regular shopper at Whole Foods, Wild Oats or your favorite local natural foods grocer? Is organic food really better for you? Are there discernible differences in taste? All this and more -- in the Organic Living discussion board. Only on

Akamai Refinances

By Tim Beyers

The Mortgage Bankers Association says homeowners refinanced more than $2.3 trillion during 2003. On Tuesday, Internet content network provider Akamai Technologies(Nasdaq: AKAM) added $200 million to that total. Well, sort of.

Let me explain. Akamai has announced a plan to buy back up to $101 million of its 5 1/2% convertible notes via what's called a "Modified Dutch Auction." No, the company won't be selling clogs and windmills to raise cash. Despite the funny name, the format is a popular way for companies to cheaply buy back its debt or shares through bids from investors who want to dump their holdings. A number of firms have recently used the practice, including Stocks 2003 pick Cemex(NYSE: CX) and PETCO(Nasdaq: PETC).

The buyback offer, which closes March 10, comes barely a month after Akamai raised $200 million in 1% convertible debt. It used $99 million of those proceeds to repurchase roughly one-third of its 5 1/2% notes in January. The twist is that the company should end up exactly where it was in December, with $300 million in convertible notes, but paying a lower rate ($200 million paying 1% and $100 million paying 5 1/2%). That's right, just like millions of Americans, Akamai refinanced.

Was the trouble worth it? I'd say so. By shaving 4 1/2% off roughly $200 million in debt, Akamai will save about $9 million in interest payments annually. That's real money that it needs badly. After all, $300 million is a hefty sum. Post-auction, Akamai will see its $200 million in liquid assets drop to $100 million, with $60 million of it in cash.

That's a pretty deep cut, but it has to be done. Akamai was partying like it was 1999 back in, um, 1999, and piled up huge debts as a result of the dot-com boom. Sometimes tough love (or the occasional early morning beer) is needed to get through a hangover.

Fortunately, the headaches usually aren't permanent, and with the refinancing, Akamai is showing that it's probably old enough to know to avoid guzzling too many $5 beers. I hope so. Investors can't afford another binge.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers doesn't do the late-night drinking binges anymore, but he loves the occasional breakfast at 2 am. He doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned, and takes invites for rolled-up eggs over toast with a side of bacon here.

Quote of Note

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food." -- George Bernard Shaw

More on Today

Sleight of hand get you every time? Bill Mann's tells all in The Illusion of Liquidity. Still looking for a little more to lean on in the mystery of investing? Check out Selena Maranjian's solid Screen for Great Stocks. So you think you can handle a little magic trick? Check out Paul Elliott's Small Cap Floating on Air.

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